WBCN may have been known as the “Rock of Boston,” but it was folk artist Tom Rush who captured the impact of the radio station when he played the traditional “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm” Monday night at the House of Blues in a multigenre musical love letter to the early days of the renegade broadcast outlet.
The four-hour concert celebrated the initial fund-raising drive for production of “The American Revolution” and raised more money for the documentary about the station due out next year.
Rush and a folk ensemble that included Spider John Koerner, Jon Pousette-Dart, Jonathan Edwards, Kate Taylor, Livingston Taylor, and Steve Mayone began the show with a spirited song circle that tapped not only tradition but also anthems that bubbled up in the era, songs such as Edwards’s “Sunshine” and “Shanty” and Pousette-Dart’s “County Line.”
The acoustic set reminded of how WBCN blossomed at a time when rock and folk were on equal footing in the counterculture that embraced the fledgling broadcast outlet. That sense of diversity within a like-minded community rippled through the concert even as it went electric.
James Montgomery, who led a rocking blues band that backed many of the night’s performers, said that celebrating WBCN was akin to celebrating “a culture, a community where people cared about each other.” Billy Squier, who closed the main set, recalled growing up in Wellesley and listening to Peter Wolf deejay from “the college of musical knowledge,” surmising that some on stage that night may not have been there without that education.
The free-form nature of early ’BCN came across in a show that spanned the soul of Al Kooper’s teaming with the Uptown Horns to the frivolity of the Fools singing “Life Sucks, Then You Die.” It was a night when Willie Alexander’s underground anthem “Mass Ave” was home with “More Than a Feeling” and medley of other monster hits performed by former members of the band Boston.
The show offered both homegrown hits, such as Robin Lane singing “When Things Go Wrong,” and enduring native talent such as Montgomery, Kooper, Charlie Farren, Johnny A., Jon Butcher, and all of their band members.
Longtime ’BCN morning man Charles Laquidara addressed the crowd a few times, but saved his biggest surprise for the finale when he filled the stage with on-air talent from throughout the station’s run from 1968 to 2009 and had that choir tackle Cream’s “I Feel Free,” the first song WBCN broadcast. It was perfectly off the rails.Scott McLennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcLennan1